Austin Martin, founder and creator of Rhymes with Reason, is on a mission to reimagine and reshape how Black students learn. His solution? Mainstream rap, R&B, and pop songs.
Martin created Rhymes with Reason, a web-based platform that uses lyrics from popular songs to help students build their vocabulary and comprehension. Similar to a game, students listen to lyrics and then analyze specific words and their usage in the song.
Not many schools allow students to bump their favorite songs during class, but Martin believes this is key to helping students learn in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Why Black Literacy is So Important
Literacy impacts our quality of life. Lower levels of literacy are linked to lower college attendance and higher incarceration rates. Over 70% of inmates in U.S. prisons can’t read above a fourth grade level.
Not to mention, in national tests from 2019, only 18% of Black 4th graders scored at or above reading proficiency. And for Black 8th graders, the percentage was even lower at 15%.
But research shows that these tests don’t accurately reflect Black children’s comprehension. Instead, they bring to light the gaps and inefficiencies in standard instruction.
That’s why Martin says it’s so important to “pull in all elements of culture to meet students where they are.”
Since launching in 2017, Rhymes with Reason has worked with over 200 agencies to help improve American students’ literacy skills.
In addition to the Boys and Girls Club of America, Rhymes with Reason partnered with professional NBA player Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers to give subscriptions to 2,500 students across four Philadelphia youth organizations. He’s also worked with the Detroit Pistons.
Martin’s goal is to connect with even more entertainers, athletes, and other public figures to continue his work.
Martin earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard in 2022. He’s using his own education and working with teachers to continue to develop Rhymes with Reason.
Rhymes with Reason is available as a web-based application with flexible subscription options, from individual child and family e-learning subscriptions for use at home, to solutions for classrooms, schools and districts, or youth organizations of any size.
“This is how learning and studying can look when it’s coming from the perspective of a young Black man,” Martin said passionately.
“I want folks to get used to what that looks like and to enjoy it.”
Support Literacy Among Black Students
Sign-up for Rhymes with Reason. Be sure to keep up with Martin and Rhymes with Reason on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.